It seems like yesterday that baseball season started, but the last three months have been a roller coaster of emotions for those involved in the Laurel Highlands baseball program.
The Mustangs and head coach Scott DeBerry weren't sure how the season was going to go after losing a strong group of seniors from the 2018 squad that won the section and advanced to the WPIAL Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
Laurel Highlands didn't win the championship in Section 3-AAAAA, but qualified for the playoffs with a 7-5 record in conference play and started to gel in the postseason.
DeBerry, who is a former Mustang, credited the number of close games LH played in during the regular season that allowed his team to keep their cool during the playoffs.
The Mustangs played in eight one-run games during the regular season, and it also didn't hurt that the pitching trio of Andino Vecchiolla, Garrett Myers and Justin Brestensky were up to the task in the postseason.
Vecchiolla started in Laurel Highlands' wins against Kiski Area (3-1) and Hampton (8-5), while Brestensky got the nod in a 4-1 victory over Franklin Regional, as the Mustangs advanced to the WPIAL Championship game for the first time in program history. Myers got the save against the Talbots.
Vecchiolla was the Herald-Standard All-Area Baseball Team's player of the year for Class AAAAAA/AAAAA and DeBerry was the coach of the year. Laurel Highlands' Tyler Becker, Brestensky, Greg Hensh, Santino Marra, Myers, Kaleb Scott and Nate Zimcosky also made the team.
Michael Brestensky, Ryan Bricker, Sam Frazee and Zack Koffler provided depth for DeBerry and his staff.
The storybook season came to an end with back-to-back losses to Shaler (8-1) in the WPIAL Championship game and to Cedar Cliff (9-2) in the first round of the state tournament, but if you look back at some of the players that have come through the baseball program at Laurel Highlands, what these boys did is remarkable, and I would be ashamed at myself if I didn't mention that they are some of the nicest kids I have worked with in 12 years of reporting on sports.
This is definitely not about me, but the fact that they take the time out to remember who I am and treat me with respect is one of the reasons why I love this job.
OK, back to why people want to read this ... please do ... I won't ramble much longer.
The Uniontown Legion team is essentially Laurel Highlands with a different name, and manager Brad Yohman's squad picked up where it left off in high school. In addition to the above players mentioned, 2018 Laurel Highlands graduates Greg Lancaster and Chad Petrush made an impact, as did Nick Kumor (more on him later), Jayce Hampe and Dylan Bohna. Alex Gesk was also a big contributor for the Senior Legion team.
Uniontown was seeking its third state tournament appearance in five years, but suffered setbacks to Blackhawk and eventual champion Hopewell in the Region 6 Tournament. Uniontown won the Fayette County regular season and playoff championships.
Kumor had his commitment to the Senior Legion team, but once their season was over, he was able to play for the Youth Legion team, and he helped Tommy Sankovich's squad to the Western Regional title and a second-place finish in the state.
Uniontown lost to the Boyertown Grizzlies, 2-1, in eight innings, in the finals. Not bad for a team that is only in its second year of existence.
Kumor was named the MVP and the top pitcher in the state tournament, and teammate Brett Lemansky won the sportsmanship award.
Carson Broadwater, Joe Chambers, Carson D'Amico, Kadin Early, Alex McClain, Braeden McKnight, Braeden O'Brien and Tyler Sankovich contributed in Uniontown's run to the state tournament in Homer City.
The majority of the roster is back for the high school, Senior and Youth Legion teams, and even though there are no guarantees, the future looks bright for Laurel Highlands baseball.
Herald-Standard sports writer Jonathan Guth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org